Dark Legacy by Christine Feehan

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In a thrilling Carpathian novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Christine Feehan, a woman fights to free herself from the grip of the vampire trying to possess her…
In a beautiful compound hidden away from the world, Emeline Sanchez tries to blunt the pain that has wracked her body ever since her terrifying ordeal in the labyrinth beneath the city—when she was forced to exchange blood with an evil master vampire.

Now, it’s his voice that haunts her…that calls to her in the dark…that never lets her rest. And while the children that she helped to free from his clutches struggle to heal, watched over by their Carpathian protectors, Emeline knows one thing: She must sacrifice herself to keep them all from harm…

—                        —                  —

Dark Legacy is the 27th book in the Dark series by New York Times bestselling author Christine Feehan. This series has been hit and miss for me for the last few years – to the point that I no longer buy them but wait until I can borrow the newest from the library – however this book is definitely my favourite from the “modern era” of Carpathian romance.

In many ways, Dark Legacy felt like a fresh breath of air and turned some of the more repetitive plot points around. The author has always blended fantasy and science fiction with romance, but romance was the key driving factor of every story and the genre in which books were categorize. I feel like this story almost turned the corner to have fantasy driving the story rather than the romance. I don’t mean this to be a slight against the author, because there was tons of heat between Dragomir and Emeline, but their relationship was not the driving factor in DL in my opinion.

Some criticism that I have read in the recent past of Feehan is that her books have too much sex in them and not enough plot. This book is certainly more plot heavy than previous works and the couple doesn’t jump into bed until the eleventh chapter. I like how they grew into a couple from first meeting and how the author developed their relationship amid a host of secondary characters. This book didn’t contain the usual isolate couple for half the book format that too many previous books employed and I actually wish that certain secondary characters had a little more interaction with the couple rather than only serving their purpose during battle scenes.

I loved that Dark Legacy gave us regular readers new insight into the Carpathian community as a whole, including differences between how they raise children and how humans raise children. Some readers might take issue with some of these finer points or accuse the author of heavy-handed heroes, but the reality is that they are a different species, and for long-time readers, the idea of these ancients blending into a modern world they have little experience with is ludicrous. It is much easier for the woman to adapt to a new lifestyle when she has only lived twenty or thirty years than a male who has lived 2000. The interaction between the community is important when they are spread out across the world and every Dark book is filled with so many battle scenes.

Another change that I loved is the author spent noticeably less time reminding the reader of previous plot points, characters and rules in this fantasy universe. Feehan usually writes her series so that a reader can pick up any book without necessarily starting with the first in the series. While I can understand the business acumen behind that decision, it is so repetitive for fans to have to recap in every book, especially at this point when most of her series have been on-going for so long. There was very little regurgitation of Carpathian/Vampire rules in Legacy and I hope that this continues.

I fervently hope that they next character to receive a book is Elisabeta, who was introduced in Legacy, I think she offers the best opportunity to read an old-school Carpathian romance with the D/s undertones I usually crave in my romance.

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The best sites to help you find the perfect next book

First off, No, this is not a sponsored post. I am a huge reader and I work in a library so I know a thing or two about searching for good books. The thing about recommending books professionally, is that you don’t know much about the person you are recommending to, and they might just be interested in a genre that you literally have NO INTEREST IN. To be certain, very few come up asking for the next great erotica.

But you still have to help them.

Enter the “professional tools” of R.A.

Goodreads is likely the most well-known of the websites I recommend. I use it to track my reading and my TBR list and it is an infinitely valuable tool, in my opinion. But the sheer number of users on goodreads means that I can find “shelves” or “lists” on almost anything from Bratva Romance/Erotica to Animal Xenofiction. If you are looking for things related to a narrow topic or a specific genre, Goodreads, or adding “goodreads” to your google search is a great place to start.

Whichbook is an awesome website for discovering new authors when you are in a serious book slump or recommending to a person who isn’t sure what they want to read. It asks very different questions from the typical ones I think of. Whichbook has different approaches, but the main function looks like this:

You can click on a few of the options and drag the arrow along a sliding scale. Some of the categories seem a bit random, but I think this is because they are designed to not pigeon-hole you into certain genres. Asking a customer these questions are more likely to help them find a book containing the emotional experience they are seeking, which I love! I also really appreciate that Whichbook has a “funny scale” because this is one category that I find very difficult to make recommendations for in books, especially fiction.

Whichbook also has different approaches to help you narrow down choices based on plot, character or setting. For character, you can refine search results by specific character traits for the hero/heroine.

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Or you can choose a plot based on popular archetypes.

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Finally, Whichbook also lets you choose books based on geographical setting, which can be narrowed down by country, and includes a category for imagined settings. One of my favourite aspects of this tool is that it does not usually recommend bestsellers, so your top search results shouldn’t all be authors you’ve read before. Whichbook is currently designing a companion site for children’s books, and I am looking forward to being able to use this for RA at work!

Literature Map is the best tool I know for finding author readalikes. You can search nearly any author and it will create a word web type result. The author you search is in the centre of the map results and the authors who write books most similarly to them will be closest to your search query.

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In this example, I have highlighted my original search and circled the authors who I have already read and enjoyed. Now I have a bunch of new authors to read while I wait for the next few releases from my favourite authors!

I hope these tools help you all on your next great book hunt. Hopefully Autumn brings us all some fantastic books!

xx

Exquisite Innocence (Iron Horse MC #5)

Lyric

I’ve spent my entire life on my parent’s isolated religious compound, sheltered and cut off from the rest of the world. It left me ill prepared to face the evil that invaded my home, and after a horrific encounter with demons masquerading as men, I fled. Some might say that my refuge is even worse than the prison I grew up in, but the men and women of the Iron Horse MC have been better to me than my own family. Unfortunately, the trouble I thought I left behind is still hunting me for reasons I don’t understand. Hustler has been assigned to be my guardian, but to my foolish heart he may be the biggest threat of all. Everything inside of me tells me we belong together, that I’ve been put on this earth to be his, but he insists we’ll never be anything more than friends.

Hustler

For as long as I can remember the Iron Horse MC has been my family. I’ve fought, bled, and sacrificed a piece of my soul for my brothers, but I’ve been set up, labeled a traitor by those I trusted most. My only hope comes in the form of a naive young girl I’ve been tasked with protecting, a woman who’s haunted both my heart and dreams. She’s everything good and beautiful in this world, and while I’ll never allow her to tarnish herself by loving me, I’ll do everything I can to make sure she survives.

(This unconventional MC series is one that SHOULD be read in order, starting with Exquisite Trouble).

—                         —                         —

Exquisite Innocence is the fifth book in the Iron Horse MC series by Ann Mayburn. Iron Horse is my second favourite MC series and each of the couples in it has a two book arc. Which means that this book ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger and the conclusion to Lyric and Hustler’s story will be released at the end of 2017, according to the author’s social media accounts.

This series is multi-faceted. It covers the outlaw MC world, the mafia world, and brings in the world of religious cults in this novel as well. It occurs in the same universe as the Submissive’s Wish series by Mayburn and there is cross-over between the two, something I happen to love.

Lyric and Hustler are super easy to fall in love with, both as individuals and as a couple. They fit well together and come alive on the page. There was a preview to this in the final scenes of the previous books so the character pairing isn’t a surprise, but I like how to the author expanded upon Lyric’s backstory, and showed Hustler’s more serious and dangerous side, which was previously hidden.

You knew it had to exist because he was an Enforcer for an outlaw motorcycle club, but he seems so goofy, chatty and sex-oriented that you forgot to be afraid, or at least that little bit on guard.

There are two main complaints that I had about Exquisite Innocence: that it wasn’t long enough (this is a short novel at about 55,000 words) which is significantly shorter than the other books in this series. And, it has been painfully obvious to me since book one who the “baddie” is, undermining and betraying his club brothers and trying to kidnap the heroines left right and centre. The author confirms in this book but I was greatly hoping that this “suspense” arc would have resolved by now!

Mayburn’s other main series (that I read at least) is the Submissive’s Wish series about Russian Bratva Doms and their beloved subs, and I feel like that series is much more complicated, well-thought out and fulfilling as a reader. I feel like not as much time went into establishing the series arcing plot points in Iron Horse, because let’s be honest. I’m not THAT perceptive and the majority of readers shouldn’t have been able to figure it out so easily.

EI would have been much more enjoyable if I didn’t feel that the author was stringing the reader along, trying to perpetuate the “Chief betrayal storyline” for several books longer than enjoyable. It also annoyed me when I downloaded my pre-order to find that the book was so short. As I mentioned above, it is significantly shorter than previous books in the same series and publication was delayed by a month. It makes me suspicious that the author had to split the book into two last minute (posting the update this summer on her social media accounts) rather than publishing one complete story. Most romance novels I read are more than 100 000 words, most actually push 130 000, so the length of the first half definitely does not necessitate splitting this book into two for me.

Unfortunately these issues took an otherwise great story and dropped it down to three stars, IMHO. Hopefully the next book makes up for it because Lyric and Hustler are a great couple and I want to see them have their time in the sun. I am also intrigued by several other characters and hope to read romance stories for Hulk, Sledge/Marley, and Tom Sokolov before the series concludes!

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xx

The Power of Habit

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A young woman walks into a laboratory. Over the past two years, she has transformed almost every aspect of her life. She has quit smoking, run a marathon, and been promoted at work. The patterns inside her brain, neurologists discover, have fundamentally changed.

Marketers at Procter & Gamble study videos of people making their beds. They are desperately trying to figure out how to sell a new product called Febreze, on track to be one of the biggest flops in company history. Suddenly, one of them detects a nearly imperceptible pattern—and with a slight shift in advertising, Febreze goes on to earn a billion dollars a year.

An untested CEO takes over one of the largest companies in America. His first order of business is attacking a single pattern among his employees—how they approach worker safety—and soon the firm, Alcoa, becomes the top performer in the Dow Jones.

What do all these people have in common? They achieved success by focusing on the patterns that shape every aspect of our lives.

They succeeded by transforming habits.

In The Power of Habit, award-winning New York Times business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. With penetrating intelligence and an ability to distill vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives, Duhigg brings to life a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential for transformation.

Along the way we learn why some people and companies struggle to change, despite years of trying, while others seem to remake themselves overnight. We visit laboratories where neuroscientists explore how habits work and where, exactly, they reside in our brains. We discover how the right habits were crucial to the success of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and civil-rights hero Martin Luther King, Jr. We go inside Procter & Gamble, Target superstores, Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, NFL locker rooms, and the nation’s largest hospitals and see how implementing so-called keystone habits can earn billions and mean the difference between failure and success, life and death.

At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, raising exceptional children, becoming more productive, building revolutionary companies and social movements, and achieving success is understanding how habits work.

Habits aren’t destiny. As Charles Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.

—                         —                         —

The Power of Habit is an interesting split between self-help book and scientific / medical study. It follows multiple cases where people have changed their habits, due to serious developmental changes, professional sports analysis, or psychological intervention. Some have changed their habits on their own, others were guided by medical professionals. But they have all drastically altered their lives.

I decided to read this book because habits are a topic of interest of mine of late. After all, who doesn’t have a few they would like to get rid of?! Or good ones to they’d like to start. I have also heard that this book is recommended by many health professionals, from mental health experts to general practitioners, as a tool for creating changing in one’s own life.

Also, I listened to the audiobook version … the narrator has a smooth and pleasant voice!

I am not sure how practical and relatable most of the dialogue is, but this book is definitely one to get you thinking!

The author explores habits on an individual level, as well as in larger social contexts. He explains some of the behaviours that can lead large groups of people, particularly protesters, to occasionally turn into mobs. He explores why some professional sports teams always seem to lose (his example was the 1990’s era Indianapolis Colts, but I couldn’t help but think of the Toronto Maple Leafs), and the habits of multinational companies.

Wait. Multinational companies?

Yes. They have habits too, a concept I had never thought too hard about before. But companies – large and small – are made up of collective habits that we all abide by, because they are made up of human workers, from the lowest employee to the CEO.

Think of it this way. If you had a new co-worker start with you at work, what insider tips would you give them to help them fit in and succeed? Would you say, this person is awesome and can be trusted, stay under the radar of so and so, or make sure you keep this person in the chain of command for the most simple of things or they will lose it on you? These are common social habits of a workplace that we all learn quickly upon starting, and we all agree to abide by, even though they aren’t official rules that you would find in any employee handbook. Habits are everywhere.

I personally found most of these examples thought-provoking and was able to apply them to my own workplace, and see certain communal habits in a new light. I did have to skip ahead on some of the more medical-based institutional examples though. I’m pretty queasy when it comes to things like listening to a description of neurosurgery. Not my thing at all.

Overall, The Power of Habit is enlightening and thought-provoking, a book I would definitely recommend to a dedicated reader looking to change their life, or improve their lot in the workplace. I would especially suggest it for a manager struggling to lead in a toxic workplace.

However, I am not sure how helpful it is to the average person who wants to start working out and drinking more water, or stop that habit of picking up fast food on the way home from work. This is because it is difficult to identify keystone habits, and understand why they affect us and you have to be able to do this before you can change an established habit. This isn’t easy to do.

Luckily, the author includes an appendix which lists a step-by-step guide to helping readers go through this process with the least amount of anguish and missteps possible. I was expecting this easy-to-read guide to be a much larger portion of the book, however, and I am unsure how much it will help me to actually change those habits I don’t like, although I am more aware of them now. So at least that is a step in the right direction.

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Dirty Ugly Toy

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Her time is over.
Things are looking up.

She’s dirty and ugly.
He’s wicked but handsome. 

Six months to toy with her.
Six months of vacation and a ton of money.

I’ll hurt her beyond repair.
I’ve been through much worse.

She’s difficult to control and doesn’t obey.
I’m done submitting to anyone or anything in this life.

I should hate her.
I should hate him.

The game has changed.
I will win.

Dirty Ugly Toy is a novel that blurs the lines of right and wrong, deals with abuse, contains dubious consent, and adult subject matter. If you are sensitive to violent sexual situations, the book may not be suitable for you. Some parts of this book are not easy to read and are not intended for everyone. However, those that keep an open mind and stick with it will not be disappointed.

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I ordered Dirty Ugly Toy on a whim the other night, because it was recommended by two authors I read and follow on facebook. It was marketed as a dark romance containing dubious consent, a sub-genre that I have had a difficult time finding books that are worth recommending lately.

*** SPOILER ALERT ***

I don’t feel like this book was worthy of the dark romance tag. It is a contemporary romance, with possible dark scenes… another one of those books that I would classify as “grey romance” if there is such a thing.

The beginning of the story definitely sets itself up to be a dark romance. The hero is initially portrayed as a serial killer – he’s not – and it seems the author is setting up a dark psychological thriller / dark romance. However, that quickly fizzles out.

Brax is a devoted son. His mother, who was a drug addict when he was a child, left a deep mark on him. Brax is a successful, billionaire business owner who abducts drug-addicted women from the streets and keeps each for a period of about six months, before returning them to their home city. During those six months, he helps them to detox with medical professionals, uncovers their backstories, the reasons they started using in the first place, and their aspirations for life. He wants to change them for the better.

During this time he also indoctrinates them into his brand of sexual relationship, one between a sadist and a masochist. The heroine who features in this story is a natural masochist however, and she has the emotional upper-hand in their relationship from the beginning. She’s different.

Jessica was addicted to heroine against her will by sexual traffickers and is deep into the throes of addiction until Brax picks her up. However, she is also extremely well educated. Before her kidnapping, Jessica was a trophy wife to a wealthy politician who is currently running for President of the United States. Of course, this husband is cruel, sadistic and very abusive, which is why she never attempted to get back home or contact him after ending up on the streets.

This is why I don’t feel like the dark romance tag is applicable. Brax and Jessica have consensual sex and play in S/m scenes. Jessica’s detox is admittedly against her will, but she is more than thankful after the fact and it is medically supervised the entire time – as safe as something like that can be. Brax saves her from her ex-husband who they inevitably run into and helps take the creep down. Jessica has the ability to leave Brax during their six months together, after she is physically healthy, and has access to a therapist specializing in D/s and S/m relationships the entire time. She also is able to leave Brax after the six months – she is not tied to him.

So how in the heck is this considered to be dark romance or dubious consent?!

I understand that some of the subject matter is dark, and it could be disturbing for people who do not want to read about prostitution, drug addition, etc. But for me, the essence of a dark romance is that the romance is dark. 

The story isn’t terrible although events all fall into place rather conveniently. At the end of the day though, I finished reading this book less than a week ago and still had to reopen my kindle to look up the hero/heroines’ names. So I wouldn’t say it is very memorable or that I would read it again.

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Still Waters

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There’s a phrase: Still waters run deep.

But there’s more to it than that.

Because “still” doesn’t denote peace. Nor calm. Nor happiness.

It’s an illusion. It’s chaos.

The only way to handle chaos is to become it.

That’s what Lucy did. She created stillness out of the chaos tumbling inside her and called the most chaotic motorcycle club in the United States her family.

The Sons of Templar gave her chaos, friendship, family, danger and death.

But she wouldn’t want it any other way.

Then he came. The one who showed her that her handle on chaos was tumultuous at best.

Showed her how to stand still.

And how good it could be.

And how drowning in those waters comes as easy as breathing.

—                         —                          —

I’ve been a fan of Malcom’s MC series for a while and have recently gotten into her paranormal books as well, but for some reason, I one-clicked this book way back in March and never got around to reading it.

The hero Keltan is the owner of a hot new security company in L.A. And he is a dream-boat. He’s attractive, muscular, Kiwi (New Zealander), tattooed, well-spoken, kind and a good ol’ country boy.

I have to ask, do guys like this really exist? Guys who say things like “where I come from, a woman doesn’t pay for a thing when a man is around”. Guys who aren’t turned off by the outwardly prickly nature of a wary woman AND aren’t just trying to “get the prize”.

Lucy and Keltan’s love story takes place over approximately two years. Although they fall for each other at first glance, both have issues to work through that they refuse to dump on another person, and Lucy in particular is scarred by her previous relationship. This negated the insta-love eye-rolling on my part, because even though they experienced lust at first sight, they got to know each other before jumping into a serious relationship.

Still Waters is the first book in a new series by Malcom entitled Greenstone Security. It appears to be a series that should be read in order – not all plot points are resolved by the end of this book and it is clear that there will be a “baddie” plot point that arcs across two or more books. However, this is the only book about this particular couple, the rest will focus on different people within Keltan’s security company.

Malcom’s writing style is wordy, filled with lots of flowery phrases that make great teasers but “chunk up” the story too much in my opinion. I do however like that all of her heroines are different from one another, and that Keltan isn’t your typical grunting alpha male. He is just as good of a conversationalist as Lucy!

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xx

 

Scrappy Little Nobody

Anna Kendrick’s Scrappy Little Nobody is the funniest book I have ever read. I went with the audiobook, which Kendrick read herself, because I am now convinced this is the only way to take on comedic or biographic novels. So thankful for this choice! Once again, a shout-out to my co-worker Ewa who recommended this book!

She just gets me 🙂

anna

Official Blurb:

A collection of humorous autobiographical essays by the Academy Award-nominated actress and star of Up in the Air and Pitch Perfect.

Even before she made a name for herself on the silver screen starring in films like Pitch Perfect, Up in the Air, Twilight, and Into the Woods, Anna Kendrick was unusually small, weird, and “10 percent defiant.”

At the ripe age of thirteen, she had already resolved to “keep the crazy inside my head where it belonged. Forever. But here’s the thing about crazy: It. Wants. Out.” In Scrappy Little Nobody, she invites readers inside her brain, sharing extraordinary and charmingly ordinary stories with candor and winningly wry observations.

With her razor-sharp wit, Anna recounts the absurdities she’s experienced on her way to and from the heart of pop culture as only she can—from her unusual path to the performing arts (Vanilla Ice and baggy neon pants may have played a role) to her double life as a middle-school student who also starred on Broadway to her initial “dating experiments” (including only liking boys who didn’t like her back) to reviewing a binder full of butt doubles to her struggle to live like an adult woman instead of a perpetual “man-child.”

Enter Anna’s world and follow her rise from “scrappy little nobody” to somebody who dazzles on the stage, the screen, and now the page—with an electric, singular voice, at once familiar and surprising, sharp and sweet, funny and serious (well, not that serious).

—                         —                         —

In some ways, Anna could be me and in others, she would definitely be my best friend. I love her. I wish I knew her IRL. Speaking of … Anna. Want to move to Canada?!

Things H & A have in common:

  1. We both lust after Tom Hardy
  2. Directionally challenged (both in terms of height and finding our way to places without GPS)
  3. Mostly anti-social peeps who prefer to be at home
  4. Neither of us can sail
  5. Nerds
  6. List-makers
  7. Awkward and riddled with self-doubt

One of the things that struck me the most about this book is that Anna is well-spoken and SMART! Not that I thought she wasn’t, but the more serious portions of her book are much deeper than I was prepared for and she appears markedly more self-possessed, driven and self-aware than I am myself.

I was also very surprised by the fact that she was still dirt-poor and living with roommates after her Oscar-nom for her role in Up in the Air. Listening to her describe this period in her life, when she was barely getting by but everyone around her spoke about her like she’d made it big, was definitely an eye-opener.

In Scrappy Little Nobody, Anna describes herself as a “Man-Child” who is perpetually three months away from maturing enough to take care of “shit”. I KNEW I couldn’t be the only one who stopped emotionally developing at a much younger age! She and I are experts at rationalizing ANYTHING. Make the bed? Why make the bed when you are just going to mess it all up again tonight? Do homework? Isn’t the point of going to school to learn? I can learn without regurgitating it all back to the Teach, who assuredly, most know this stuff already. So I’ll just skip that step thank you very much.

I have OCD so if I start something, it has to be done PERFECTLY or I will drive myself and anyone around me cray. It’s so much easier to just not start a project at all.

Scrappy Little Nobody doesn’t feel like a book. It feels like a conversation, albeit one where the listener is very good at listening and Anna is constantly “on”. Six hours have never passed so quickly and I am seriously contemplating just re-starting her book over again, because I am not ready for it to be over. It’s been 24 hours since I finished listening and I am still missing Anna like a friend who popped in for a short visit and was off again.

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xx